Responses urgently needed on revised Waste Treatment BREF

As explained in previous blogs, the revised Waste Treatment BREF has now been released for consultation. We met with the Environment Agency (EA) last week to discuss the consultation process (click here for more information), and they have now sent us their initial comments on the draft revised BREF so that the industry can provide feedback on whether it supports their views. The revised BREF, once agreed, will be used by Member States to set permit requirements for ‘installation activities’, based on the Best Available Techniques (BAT) conclusions. Installation activities include AD plants that fall under Section 5.3 (a) (i) or Section 5.3 (b) (i), Schedule 1 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations.

The consultation is open until the 18th March, however to allow the EA sufficient time to collate comments from the industry, we must respond to them by 15 February. Therefore, we are requesting that any comments are provided to us by 11 February.

You can access the draft document by clicking here. The relevant chapters are Chapters 2, 4, and 6.

The EA have sent us separate spreadsheets for each chapter, containing their comments, rationale and proposed changes. You can access the relevant chapters in the table below.

Chapter Topic EA’s spreadsheet
Chapter 2 Process and Techniques Commonly Used for Waste Treatment Click here
Chapter 4 Biological Treatments of Waste Click here
Chapter 6 Best Available Techniques (BAT) Conclusions Click here

When reading the spreadsheets, you will need to refer back to the draft document for context.

We have reviewed the EA’s comments and have picked out some issues on which we would be particularly interested to hear your views.

Chapter 4


The draft document includes the following text regarding bioaerosol monitoring: ‘Regarding bioaerosols, there is currently no international consensus on the method or indicator that can be used as the preferred metric to assess the health risk of bioaerosol emissions. As a consequence, there is also no consensus as to whether bioaerosol monitoring can be used to effectively check that environmental limits are being achieved and control measures are operating. Within the EU, only the UK and Germany have implemented additional monitoring requirements related to bioaerosols, for which national guidelines have been established.’ This text is found on page 370, Chapter 4 of the BREF.

The EA have proposed some alternative text which more strongly puts across their view that there is ‘compelling evidence’ that exposure to high concentrations of bioaerosols from biowaste treatment is associated with adverse health outcomes and emphasising that the regulators in UK and Germany have taken a precautionary approach.

Sludge dewatering

The draft document contains the following text about sludge and digestate dewatering: ‘The sludge or digestate is usually dewatered. The content of heavy metals may be leached out to soil or washed off into watercourses if the digestate is used as compost, as soil cover or land filled.’ See page 403, Chapter 4 of the BREF.

The EA have suggested alternative text which makes the point that sludge and digestate can be dewatered, rather than specifying that it usually is. It also corrects the terminology, removing the reference to compost as it is incorrect when referring to the application of digestate to land. The suggested text also amends the wording to reflect that digestate should not be landfilled but could be used as soil cover at a landfill site.

Chapter 6

Environmental Management Systems

In BAT 1, Section, page 882 in Chapter 6, the document sets out some fairly detailed requirements for Environmental Management Systems (which are in fact already included in Chapter 2). The EA suggest that it should not be duplicated in two chapters, and propose that it is amended to state that an operator must implement and adhere to an EMS. Please let us know if you have any comments on this.

Water monitoring

Section begins on page 884 of Chapter 6 and relates to monitoring of emissions.

BAT 3 (Table 6.1) sets out monitoring requirements for emissions to water. However, as pointed out in the EA’s comments, it is not clear whether the requirements relate to direct and/or indirect discharges to water.  There are a high number of parameters to test for, at either daily or weekly frequencies, so the document needs to clarify what type of discharge are within the scope of the BAT in order for industry to determine whether the requirements are reasonable.

The EA also point out that a number of parameters do not have specified limits, so the purpose of testing them is unclear. It is also unclear what should be done with the results of monitoring and what should happen in the event of a failure. This could lead to inconsistent application of BAT across Member States.

Odour management and biofilters

The current draft BREF states that in order to reduce channelled emissions of odorous substances, H2S and NH3, BAT is to use a biofilter (BAT 32, page 908). However, the EA propose to amend this to state that ‘BAT is to use a wet scrubber in combination with a biofilter’.

We are interested to hear your thoughts on the statement that the best available technique is to use a biofilter in combination with a wet scrubber.

Our feedback is by no means limited to the issues above, so if you have comments on any aspect of the draft BREF please do not hesitate to get in touch. Please send any comments to me at by 11 February at the latest.

Posted in: News for Members, Policy updates

Tags: BREF, anaerobic digestion, jess allan, environmental permitting, food waste operators, EA, waste regulation